[News] Israel is weaponising the Covid-19 vaccine against the Palestinians

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 11 17:18:10 EST 2021


  Israel is weaponising the Covid-19 vaccine against the Palestinians

Motasem A Dalloul  - January 11, 2021

January 11, 2021 at 4:26 pm

In violation of all religious norms as well as international laws and 
conventions, Israel is weaponising the Covid-19 vaccine against the 
Palestinians, whose land, homes and rights are under constant threat 
from the occupation state.

The Israeli Health Ministry began its vaccination programme on 20 
December. Officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 
that millions of doses 
had been bought, enough for everyone in Israel. This was deceitful, 
because the occupation government is not vaccinating some of the most 
vulnerable people under its control: the Palestinians living under 
Israeli occupation, for whom Israel is legally and morally responsible; 
and Palestinian prisoners in its jails.

The latter was made clear on 26 December, when Public Security Minister 
Amir Ohana ordered that security prisoners in Israel be removed from the 
list of priority groups for the vaccine. According to the /Times of 
Ohana told the Israel Prison Service only to vaccinate staff in the 
prisons where such prisoners are held.

The minister thus disregarded the recommendations of the Health Ministry 
and the fact that the only security prisoners in Israel are 
Palestinians, who endure very harsh conditions in overcrowded jails, 
making them the most vulnerable to catching Covid-19 in the country. 
Around 200 Palestinian prisoners have caught the coronavirus in Israeli 
jails to date.

*READ: Israel rejects WHO's request to provide Palestine medics covid 

The UN has reported that the Israeli human rights organisation 
Physicians for Human Rights 
receives around 400 complaints annually from Palestinian prisoners and 
their families about prison conditions. Ohana, though, insists 
that his decision stands. He confirmed this last Friday in a letter to 
Israel's Deputy Attorney General, Amit Marari, who had told him that his 
instruction not to vaccinate prisoners at this stage was not within his 
authority, and prisoners must receive the vaccine.

Five Israeli rights groups filed an appeal to the Israeli High Court on 
Sunday against Ohana's decision. "According to professional sources," 
the petition 
stated, "prisoners are an at-risk population and action must be taken to 
vaccinate them in parallel with the at-risk populations at large."

As far as the Palestinians in the occupied territories are concerned, 
Israel has done nothing to facilitate the distribution of vaccine for 
them. Regardless of the existence of the Palestinian Authority in the 
West Bank and Gaza Strip, these territories are still under full Israeli 
occupation and control, and the state has a legal responsibility to 
provide basic essentials to everyone living under occupation, a 
responsibility that it ignores routinely.

In the West Bank, the Apartheid Separation Wall and military checkpoints 
make access to healthcare very difficult for the Palestinians. In Gaza, 
the Israeli-led blockade on the territory since 2007 has seen the 
healthcare sector almost collapse. Hospitals suffer from a severe 
shortage of medicines, medical disposables and medical equipment, 
adequate electricity supplies and fresh water. Hundreds of patients have 
died unnecessarily due to these shortages.

*READ: Israel rights groups appeal against minister's orders not to 
vaccinate Palestine prisoners 

Under Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the occupier of any 
country has the duty to ensure "the adoption and application of the 
prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of 
contagious diseases and epidemics." Israel thus has a legal obligation 
to provide the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians living under its 

Israel weaponisation of the vaccine is clear from its condition that it 
would never allow its entry into the Gaza Strip until the return of the 
Israeli soldiers (or their bodies) captured during the Israeli offensive 
on Gaza in 2014 and held by the Palestinian resistance ever since. 
However, no official Israeli claim has been made in this regard, but as 
neither Israeli officials nor Hamas have denied these reports, they are 
likely to be accurate.

"Israel is exploiting Hamas' helplessness to halt the spread of the 
coronavirus and conditioning aid for the pandemic on the return of 
Israeli captives and missing soldiers," wrote Gada Majadli in /Haaretz/ 
on 29 December. She stressed that allowing the vaccine into Gaza is not 
a charitable act, but Israel's "legal and humanitarian duty."

The Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS) in Gaza has 
criticised this condition and said that Israel is adopting "a racist 
policy" on the vaccination issue. "Israel is exploiting the issue of the 
coronavirus vaccine in order to achieve political gains," the CPDS 
pointed out. "This is a flagrant violation of international law."

*READ: PA says vaccines could come in March, accuses Israel of shirking 
duty to supply them 

Last week, the Israeli rights group Gisha-Maslak 
<https://gisha.org/updates/12197> also commented on these reports, 
reiterating that, "Israel is obligated to protect the health and safety 
of all people living under its control, including by ensuring that the 
vaccine is available in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza… Israel must 
contribute to covering the cost of the vaccine and its distribution, 

Israeli journalist Amira Hass 
<https://www.haaretz.co.il/debate/arabic/1.9410999> had this to say in 
/Haaretz/: "Ohana has developed this prevailing Israeli trend, which 
must continue forever, that the Palestinian prisoners and their families 
must be continually punished… The Palestinians are being systematically 
prosecuted, away from the context of their life which includes their 
being subject to systematic and institutionalised violence under the 
Israeli occupation."

Based on this distorted logic, she added, the Israeli settlers, who are 
not living in their land — "I mean the settlements" — get the vaccine, 
"while the Palestinians, who are the owners of the land, stay out of the 
calculations of the state."

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not 
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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